2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Race Recap: Part 1

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!!!" I exclaimed at 3:45 on Friday morning, falling out of bed. My wife, stepping out of the shower walked into the bathroom to see what I was yelling about. It seemed that between us going to bed at 1am and the time we woke up, our 7:30a JetBlue flight into Long Beach had been cancelled and we had been automatically rebooked to get in at 8p that night. 

You can imagine my extreme response, given I had just waken up from a meager 3-hour nap and had been looking forward to our trip down to Disneyland to run in the half marathon. Not only that, but I was invited by race sponsors, Cigna to once again participate in their blogger meet up where I'd see all my friends. Laying back in bed, I couldn't let the shoddy operations of a discount airline ruin my trip, so I grabbed the computer and began to race the clock on finding alternate travel options. 

Luckily, there was room on a Southwest flight arriving at John Wayne one hour past our original in-time, but it would have to do. Bonus, I could book with points. Unfortunately, the flight was leaving in two hours! So, I passed on the shower, grabbed all my gear and my wife, and headed out the door. Thanks to TSA Precheck we made it to the gate with 20 minutes to spare. I should have guessed that a sign the running gods would not be on my side over the course of the weekend. 

Thanks for nothing JetBlue.

After a quick layover in San Jose we arrived at John Wayne and made our way to the Happiest Place on Earth, where the weekend's action would take place. We had a full weekend planned as all of our dearest running friends would be in attendance, meaning nearly every hour was spoken for. My wife and I would be crashing with Jen and Lena at the Best Western Park Place right across the entrance to the Disneyland Resort. The trip was a last minute arrangement for us and I can't thank them enough for letting us stay there. At the hotel my wife and I parted ways, she was off to find the gang and I made my way over to the Cigna Blogger Meet Up.

Similar to last year's event, "the squad" consisting of Emelia, Linzie, Carlee and I caught up at the UVA bar and pre-gamed (a little) before heading into what would be another stellar event held by the good folks at Cigna. I was really happy to see folks since we haven't really had a chance to see each other since I had moved out west, except for the Rock n Roll Half in Seattle a few months earlier. They really are some of the greatest people on the planet. 

These people, man. These are the people!

We headed into the Grand Californian conference room where the event was being held and after some attempts to be all on one team, we were split up. Linzie and Emelia on one team, Carlee and I on another. The meet up consisted of a veritable who's-who in the blogosphere and some of my great friends. In the room there were comicon runners, Kim and Gail; Disneyland expert and Flipcup elite, AJ; the southern powerhouse contingent Brandi and Allen; parks pro Patty; as well as an assortment of other bloggers that ranged from moms to foodies. AJ and his friend joined our team, I had a good feeling victory was only a matter of time. 

The format for the meet up was more like the one at WDW in January than the DLR 2014 one, where teams would participate in a series of health-based challenges rather than learning to cook. I like this format more than the latter as it's more active and social, giving everyone a chance to participate and let loose a bit (or in my case, a lot). 

The full spread. Photo: Cigna/Disney

Each of the teams consisted of about 5-6 players and I knew our team consisted of some of the baddest trivia/challenge ballers around. And, they showed up to play. The event consisted of numerous activities from a mental and physical standpoint, where some of the challenges forced us to think about healthy foods and select health-related words (a la Bananagrams); other challenges forced us to move. One challenge consisted of a box full of ping pong balls attached to a team members rump that forced them to shake them all out. Carlee took on that challenge like a champ! Another challenge was a variation on the college favorite, FlipCup, which AJ took first prize. I was forced to Vogue (a terrible sight) as well as balance a balloon on my ass. Yes, my ass.

Just give me a stage.... Photo: Cigna/Disney

When all was said and done, my team took home the gold. Our reward was a 1-day park ticket, which was killer! But, it really wasn't about who won and who lost. As I mentioned above, the meet ups are always a lot of fun. Cigna really does a great job of providing education but in a fun atmosphere. I really like that team. Well done, Cigna!

Winner, winner....

So much fun. TTFN!

Saying goodbye to the squad, I made my way out of the ballroom and high-tailed it straight to my new favorite park, Disney California Adventure (more on that later) to catch up with my wife, Jen and Lena for some much needed parks time. 

Upon catching up with my wife and team at DCA, it was a pleasurable surprise to see Sarah in tow; it's always great to hang out with her. Apparently, while I was enjoying the meet up, the aforementioned gang was chilling at the Cove Bar with friends, Tracy and Dawnley. We traversed the wonderful sights and sounds of DCA before heading over to Disneyland to catch our reservations at perennial favorite, The Blue Bayou, but not before hitting the always amazing Mr. Toad and Pirates of the Caribbean. Sadly, The Haunted Mansion was once again closed due to the holiday makeover - my wife has yet to experience the west coast version of that ride. 

Lovely ladies.

Sarah bid us adieu as we took to our water view table at the Blue Bayou. I feasted on delectable treasures such as shrimp cocktail, gumbo and jambalaya, while the rest of the table feasted on various surf and/or turf. It was nice to catch up with Lena and Jen, the night filled with stories that just "had to be told and heard." Finishing up dinner, we snuck into line to catch Disney's soon-to-be-retired Paint the Night Parade, which was a truly awe-inspiring experience. I mean, that parade was unbelievable. The music, the pageantry. Wow, what a show. 

This parade. IS. INSANE!

We also caught the Disneyland Forever fireworks show, call me a hater but I really didn't think much of it. I get that Disney is working in a confined space and they use it all to the best of their ability. But, the music is way off for what a fireworks show should be, the projection (some incorrectly refer to it as "projection mapping") is overused and overall, it's just kind of meh. I'll take Illuminations or Sorcery in the Sky any day. 

The following morning, we all accidentally slept in missing Lena and our other friends run the 10k, which I still feel bad about. But, it sounded like everyone had a great time and the new race course, which had to be changed due to Star Warsland (or, as I call it "Bleh, Blah, You're Ruining MGM Studios Land"). We, once again made it back to DCA to enjoy Starbucks and a performance by Five and Dime, the absolute best live entertainment ever. This all-star jazz group plays some great swing oldies in period garb. Being an avid big band music fan, these guys hit me right in the heart. For the rest of the trip, I caught their performance whenever I could. 

Five and Dime. These guys are my everything. 

From there, we hit Toy Story Mania (meh) and then the always wonderful, but not as good as Florida, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. As far as theming goes, this ride is one of my favorites. I love the thought of a gigantic building that was deserted suddenly in the 1930's, leaving only the history of what it once was. The boiler room is so well done, it actually feels like you are in an abandoned hotel - I'm a sucker for urban exploration - right down to the paint cans knocked over in a rush to get out of the building. 

I'm incredibly sad and angry that Disney is deciding to change the theme of the ride to the mildly okay Guardians of the Galaxy. This is the absolute worst ride conversion since they screwed up the Tiki Room by adding Iago and Zazu (thankfully, the gods agreed and burnt the place down). Seriously, this may be the dumbest move Disney has done since the parking garages at Disney Springs or digitally altering Steven Tyler's hand at Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. It may even be dumber than ripping down Streets of America at the Studios. Actually, that IS the dumbest thing Disney has ever done. 

I said what I said.

If Disney had to relinquish the Twilight Zone rights back to CBS, there are about 20 other stories they could rely on that kept the "abandoned hotel" theme. Really dumb, Disney. Truly unbelievable. If this happens in Florida, folks are going to lose their shit. 

After enjoying some up and down and back up time, we made our way over to the Disneyland Hotel where the good folks at #WeRunSocial were having their weekend meet up. To my surprise, the meet up was packed to the gills with runners. This year, the meet up was sponsored by Sparkle Skirts and Pro Compression socks which may have added to the attendance. 

At the meet up, I had the chance to hang with the coolest ladies on the west coast and dear friends, Casey and Connie. Also, it was great to see so many of my readers at the meet up, thank you all for introducing yourselves. I even walked away with some sweet Pro Compression socks and gear from Sparkle, thanks, guys!

Casey & Connie give me all the smiles.

Once the meet up wrapped, we made a quick stop at the expo to pick up our bibs, coast-to-coast bracelets and do a little shopping. The trip through the expo was smooth and quick, because we had somewhere much more important to be.

That place, my friends, was Trader Sam's. 

End Part 1